Braxton’s position switch trims Buckeyes’ QB battle to two

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When Braxton Miller officially announced earlier this month that he would be staying at Ohio State instead of transferring, most assumed that OSU’s much-discussed three-headed quarterback competition was officially on.  Instead, it merely served as the precursor to a stunning yet not all that surprising turn of events.

In an exclusive interview with Pete Thamel of SI.com, Braxton Miller revealed that he will begin not only summer camp but the 2015 season as an H-Back-type player, not as a quarterback.  The hybrid position, which will include copious amounts of time with Miller split out/lined up as a wide receiver, was something the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (as a quarterback) first discussed with strength coach Mickey Marotti way back in April. A month later, he was discussing a potential position switch with head coach Urban Meyer; a couple of weeks later, he was running clandestine routes as a receiver, with J.T. Barrett as the triggerman.

On July 9, when Miller proclaimed that OSU “is where I started and this is where I’m going to finish it” and proclaimed himself fully healthy from shoulder surgery that cost him the entire 2014 season, he simultaneously dismissed talk of changing positions.  Sort of.

“Absolutely,” Miller said when asked if he was coming back as a quarterback. “God put me on this earth … to be an athlete, and the first thing in mind is being a quarterback, and just be smart about what I do.”

Exactly two weeks later, and with the throwing shoulder not as healthy as he needs it to be, Miller is falling back on Plan B for health reasons.  And for the good of the team for which he grew up rooting.

“For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return,” Miller told Thamel when it comes to his immediate future as a Buckeye. “It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. This is the smarter thing for right now, God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.”

Miller did, though, allow that he’ll spend 20 percent of his workload during summer camp with the quarterbacks, which will give opposing coordinators on the 2015 schedule just enough to think about when the senior takes the field and lines up at whatever position.

Just like that, though, there were two: Barrett and Cardale Jones. The former led the Buckeyes to the cusp of a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff appearance before sustaining a season-ending leg injury in the regular-season finale, while the latter led the Buckeyes to three stunning postseason wins that culminated in a national championship.

Because of the recovery from his injury, Barrett didn’t participate in spring practice, giving Jones a leg up under a new offensive coordinator. Now that the field has been whittled from three to two, it’ll be fascinating to see if the redshirt sophomore Barrett can close whatever gap the rifle-armed redshirt junior Jones may have opened up this spring.

And, if anything, the position switch may have made this quarterback competition that much more intriguing, if that was even possible.

Star WR Michael Pittman confirms he’ll play in USC’s bowl game

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(Pardon us as we’ve been catching up on a few things due to some very significant technical difficulties.)

USC fans can assuage their anguish somewhat over the retention of Clay Helton with the knowledge that one of their school’s most explosive weapons on offense will be available during the postseason. There, feel better?

After some uncertainty and speculation, Michael Pittman announced on Twitter this week that he will be playing in the Trojans’ bowl game. USC will face Iowa in Holiday Bowl Dec. 27, the first meeting between the football programs since 2002.

Pittman led the Trojans this season in receptions (95), receiving yards (1,222) and receiving touchdowns (11). The catches and yards led the Pac-12, while the scores were second.

The fourth-year senior was named first-team all-conference and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

FAU makes hiring of Willie Taggart as Lane Kiffin’s replacement official

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A week ago, it was reported that Willie Taggartbadly wants a second act” at USF.  While that job ultimately went to a Clemson coordinator, Taggart still ended up landing yet another gig in the Sunshine State.

With rumors swirling throughout the day, Florida Atlantic confirmed Wednesday evening that Taggart has been named as the Owls’ new head football coach.  Taggart replaces Lane Kiffin, who left shortly after FAU won the Conference USA championship game Saturday for the Ole Miss job.

“I’m grateful to Brian White and President Kelly for their belief in me to lead the football program at Florida Atlantic University,” a statement from Taggart began. “I’m looking forward to long-term success here. I think our players and the university deserve that commitment. Family is extremely important to me. I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support and all of us are looking forward to being here in Paradise for the foreseeable future.”

After four years as the head coach at South Florida, Taggart left USF for Oregon — for one season as it turned out as he pulled up stakes from the Pac-12 school for the Florida State job in December of 2017.  Less than two full seasons later, though, Taggart was shown the door by the Seminoles in early November.

Taggart is a native of Bradenton, Fla. and has deep, extensive recruiting ties in the state, which will only aid him in taking over a football program that has won two conference championships the past three years.

Taggart has never won a conference crown during his 10 seasons as a head coach, although he did claim a division title at South Florida in 2016.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Coach Taggart on board to lead our football program,” FAU athletic director Brian White said in his statement. “Coach Taggart is a proven program builder who will develop strong relationships with our student-athletes and develop them as future leaders. His deep relationships around the state of Florida and the nation will be vital in recruiting as well. The traits he brings to the table will allow us to continue building upon our recent success.”

FAU’s Harrison Bryant named Mackey Award winner as nation’s best TE

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In a change of pace, we come to an award that doesn’t involve either Joe Burrow or Chase Young.

The John Mackey Award winner was announced earlier in the day Wednesday, with Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant claiming this year’s honor.  The Mackey is handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Established in 2000, the 2018 winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson.

This past season, Bryant caught 65 passes for 1,0004 yards and seven touchdowns.  Bryant led all FBS tight ends in both catches and receiving yards.

Bryant beat out seven other tight ends for the 2019 Mackey.

  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

Ole Miss announces future home-and-home with Oregon State

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With the 2019 regular season put to bed, there is some future scheduling news on which to hit — and some very rare news at that.

Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss announced that it had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series with Oregon State.  The Beavers will travel to Oxford Sept. 18, 2027, with the Rebels making the trek to Corvallis on Aug. 31, 2030.

The 2027 game will mark the first-ever between the football programs.

According to Ole Miss, they have played a current member of the Pac-12 just twice, with both of those games coming against Cal.  Those games, incidentally, came in the last three years, including this season.

Oregon State last played a team from the SEC in 1987 when they traveled to Georgia.  A team from that conference has never played in Corvallis.